This is my first encounter with any of Thúy’s work. Mãn was selected as Book of the Year by Grant MacEwan, so I thought it was prudent to give this novel a go, before the talk in the new year.
If you want to boil this book down into one word, I suppose that word would be: affair. However, that seems inappropriate and over simplistic. To do so would strip away the many layers and complexity found within the story. Layers and complexity which mirror those found within the main character Mãn’s Vietnamese dishes and infusions.
The story is the blossoming of a person whose past life decisions (or lack of life decisions) are based off of an outdated survival model passed down from the Vietnam War. However, now in Montreal, as Mãn moves up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, she ends up colliding with feelings she has been unable to access until now. And so, what should be a beautiful awakening, actually ends up threatening a life and family built around survival, obligation, and culture.
If you just want to see the character as an adulteress, I suppose you can do that. Enjoy your cabbage soup. But for others who will take the time to savour the flavour profiles, bon appétit! Your delicious Pho awaits.
“The Other Man”– Sloan, This may seem like an obvious choice, but it works. We don’t usually have a choice who we are drawn to, but we definitely have a choice in how we pursue or do not pursue.
Books Read: 2